Axing polls would just fuel this crisis

Editorial | Mary Ma 8 Nov 2019

The district council elections are almost upon us, with roughly just two weeks left to go, and the uncertainty pervading Hong Kong these days has thrown a huge question mark over it.

For a local pro-Beijing heavyweight has set a deadline for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to decide by November 17 whether to go ahead with the elections or not.

That's an uncanny call to make, and pressure is sure to mount on Lam to postpone or even cancel the November 24 vote now that a pro-Beijing candidate suffered a minor stab wound in the chest while campaigning in Tuen Mun on Wednesday.

In the event, the victim, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, and his aides overpowered the attacker and handed him over to the police.

Farfetched rumors have been flying since, with some suggesting it was no more than a political stunt masterminded by Ho, who is running against the Democratic Party's Lo Chun-yu and newcomer Chiang Ching-man in Lok Tsui constituency.

Others such as Executive Councillor Ip Kwok-him, a political heavyweight, have cast doubt on whether the elections would be fair and peaceful.

Ho wasn't the only candidate to be caught up in what cannot but be seen as an outbreak of political violence. A Democratic Party candidate had, just three days earlier, had part of his ear bitten off by a knife-wielding man in Tai Koo.

Information that has surfaced so far shows the attackers in the two cases may be, to put it bluntly, mentally unstable.

Given the sociopolitical gulf tearing us as a community apart these days, rare is that person who is not feeling a smidgen of mental distress. Of course, some are more vulnerable than others and prone to be driven to the edge. That's the grim side of the sociopolitical reality we are facing after five months of violence.

However, should the elections be put off because of the attacks?

Lam would be extremely ill-advised to do so.

While the administration may defer or even call off the elections at a snap of the fingers, the fallout would be dire indeed.

For the ensuing fury at what would be seen by the anti-establishment camp as yet another attempt to thwart the democratic will of the people would only fuel the vicious cycle of violence perpetuated by bad political decisions and the kind of police suppression required to suppress the resulting public discontent.

That's a gamble Ip and his peers should never ask Hongkongers to take, especially after all the violence that we have gone through since the government's ill-fated attempt to pass a badly-calculated extradition bill.

As the SAR struggles to restore peace and stability, it would not be in our interests in any way to pour fuel on this sociopolitical fire. Only those with ulterior motives would conceive of such a suggestion.

Not all of Ip's peers agree with his view in this burning issue.

How long should they be postponed? Only for a week as stipulated under the law? Or until further notice, which would require legislators to pass a new bill to give it legal effect?

In both scenarios, the pro-establishment camp runs a greater risk of an even greater disaster when the elections are held.

Instead of wasting time coming up with reasons to get the elections put off or canceled, wouldn't it be in the interests of all sides to concentrate on campaigning in the next two weeks?

The elections are a gauge of political temperatures, and refusing to hold them risks making the fever that runs through Hong Kong these days even more rampant.

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